Thirteen years ago today, Phillies infielder Eric Bruntlett made MLB history.
The Philadelphia Phillies may have struggled against their division-rival New York Mets this season under managers Joe Girardi and Rob Thomson — winning only five of their 19 meetings — but that has not always been the case.
For instance, consider the teams’ August 23, 2009, Sunday afternoon matchup at Citi Field. Thirteen years ago today at the venue, Phillies second baseman Eric Bruntlett recorded Major League Baseball history — turning an unassisted triple play to end the game.
The Phillies entered the ninth inning with “Lights Out” Brad Lidge on the mound and a 9-6 lead. The first two Mets batters — Angel Pagan and Luis Castillo — reached on back-to-back errors by first baseman Ryan Howard and Bruntlett. The next Mets batter, Daniel Murphy, singled.
In other words, the inning was not looking favorable for the Charlie Manuel-led team, whose reigning World Series champions entered the game 20 games over .500 — a 70-50 record.
Thanks to Bruntlett, he made up for his costly error earlier in the inning — and all worries were quickly squashed.
On a 2-2 count with nobody out and runners on first and second, future Phillie Jeff Francoeur hit into a line-drive triple play to Bruntlett — who caught the ball, followed by tagging the second base bag and Murphy on the base paths.
The previous time an unassisted triple play was recorded to close out a game came nearly a century ago by Detroit Tigers first baseman Johnny Neun on May 31, 1927.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, has a display honoring Bruntlett’s achievement:
On June 20, 2021, the New York Yankees became the first team to end a game on a triple play since this Phillies play in 2009 — although the American League East club’s play was not unassisted.
A lot of time has come and gone since the 2009 season. A year prior, Bruntlett notably scored the game- and championship-clinching run in the 2008 World Series.
More than a decade later, the Phillies will hope to recapture some of those teams’ magic with their own hopeful postseason run this fall.